Roadsters to happiness

Roadsters to happiness
Twin test of two old roadster stalwarts: the Audi TT Roadster and BMW Z4.

All the recent news about manufacturers jumping onto the sport-utility vehicle bandwagon makes me depressed.

So depressed, in fact, that I had to rustle up two roadsters to drive, just to remind myself of the joys of driving.

And what better choices than the BMW Z4 and Audi TT roadsters, two cars that have fallen off the radar screen for most buyers.

For one thing, the recently introduced tiered Additional Registration Fee has made discretionary purchases ultra-discretionary.

Secondly, the duo are a bit long in the tooth - an all- new TT is due to be launched later this year and a Z4 replacement will happen around 2016.

But going by experience, the best time to buy a car is at the tail-end of its product cycle.

All the engineering kinks would have been ironed out, manufacturers would have introduced loads of sweeteners to maintain their viability and dealers will be "pricing to sell".

Looking at these two roadsters, though, it is hard to imagine anyone would need much persuasion to hop into either of them.

The Z4 embodies the classic roadster form - long nose, short cabin section, with practically no rear overhang. It is dripping with sex appeal.

The topless TT is squat, with restrained curves - in some ways a stylistic tribute to the Porsche 911 and, at the same time, very much its own car.

It is not as visually arresting as the Z4, but its purposeful stance translates to superior dynamics. But more of this later.

Both cars are pure two-seaters and both are entry-level variants in their respective range. Both are front-engined, but the Z4 is rear-wheel-driven while the TT is front-wheeled.

The Z4 has a foldable hard-top, which would normally offer better noise insulation. But it is not true in the case of the test car. The BMW suffers from noise pollution within and without.

Its roof mechanism itself is clunky, closing with a loud thud. Cabin rattle adds to the din. And with the car's mercilessly hard suspension, rattle happens quite a lot.

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